Arrests in drug store holdups can help federal effort to address police shootings

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The arrests of two career criminals charged with terrorizing drug store clerks and customers has given Paul J. Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a textbook example of what Attorney General Eric Holder meant when he urged government prosecutors in all 50 states last week to bring more federal cases against ex-cons, in a bid to stem the alarming rise of police murders.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Reginald Ware (JCPD PHOTO)

Reginald H. Ware, who had a brief court appearance in Newark today, was arrested by Jersey City police last fall following a string of brazen holdups that authorities said he and an accomplice — Rahoo Drew, 31, of Newark —  pulled off there and in Union City.

Assistant prosecutors from Fishman’s office then stepped in and took the case to the federal level, where the penalties are much more severe than under state guidelines.

Ware, of Newark, is charged with four holdups, as well as carjacking. Drew is charged with the four robberies, including one which police said netted the pair $10,000 in cash, jewelry and prescription drugs, including oxycodone and Viagra.

As the number of murders and attacks on police officers continues to rise, Holder last week convened an unprecedented gathering of police chiefs from around the country, along with top federal law enforcement officials.

He said he has directed all 93 top federal prosecutors, including Fishman, to meet with police brass in their respective states and identify the “worst of the worst” gun offenders who cycle in and out of state prison.

Federal convictions bring definite sentences that must be served out, with barely a few weeks off for good behavior, as opposed to state sentences that often put offenders back on the street in months, if not weeks.

“It will be a priority for every United States attorney in this country to have that kind of interaction with their state and local counterparts to make sure that we are doing all that we can to keep law enforcement agents… safe,” Holder said last week.

Ware, 41 — also known as “Ronell Wilson,” “Kyiis M. Justice,” and “Kyyiis Justice” — spent nearly a dozen years in prison for various crimes, mostly holdups, and had been free barely a year when last year’s stickups began, records show. Drew spent four years behind bars for aggravated assault and receiving stolen property. He, too, had been out of prison less than a year before he and Ware allegedly teamed up.

Both remain in federal custody.

Federal authorities said Ware and Drew robbed the Wisdom Pharmacy at 2717 Kennedy Blvd. in Jersey City on July 27; the Welcome Pharmacy on West Side Avenue in Jersey City on Aug. 4; the Americas Pharmacy on Summit Avenue in Union City on Oct. 14, and Carry Drugs in Jersey City on Oct. 16.

In each, the two men “walked into the pharmacies with firearms in hand and ordered everyone to lie on the floor facing down,” a federal complaint says. “The victims were threatened with death if they did not comply.

“After securing the victims inside the pharmacy, the two men seized controlled substances and took cash from the pharmacies and individual victims, as well as jewelry.”

In the last two heists, the pair used a getaway car that Ware is accused of taking from a livery driver in New York on Oct. 12, the complaint adds.

A separate case against Drew is pending. Now it remains to be seen which of the two is willing to cut a plea deal to testify against the other in exchange for leniency.

Each faces a potential maximum of 20 years in federal prison if convicted of the holdups. The carjacking charge carries a 15-year maximum stretch.

Fishman credited Jersey City police and the Hudson County prosecutor’s office, along with the FBI, for making the case.

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